Laguna Copperplate Inscription

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (key) is inscribed with small writing hammered into its surface. It shows heavy Indian cultural influence (by way of Srivijaya) present in the Philippines prior to European colonization in the 16th century.

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (Filipino: Inskripsyon sa Binatbat na Tanso ng Laguna, Malay: Prasasti keping tembaga Laguna; often shortened into the acronym LCI), a legal document inscribed on a copper plate in 900 AD, is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines.

The plate was found in 1989 by a laborer near the mouth of the Lumbang River in Wawa barangay, Lumban municipality, Laguna province. The inscription, written in a mix of the Old Malay language using the Old Kawi script, was first deciphered by Dutch anthropologist and Hanunó'o script expert Antoon Postma in 1992.[1][2]

The LCI documents the existence of several early Philippine polities as early as 900 AD, most notably the Pasig River delta polity of Tondo.[1] Scholars believe that it also indicates trade, cultural, and possibly political ties between these polities and at least one contemporaneous Asian civilization—the Medang Kingdom of the island of Java.[1]

The inscription was written in Kawi script—a writing system developed in Java, and using a mixture of languages including Sanskrit, Old Javanese, and Old Malay. This was a rare trace of Javanese influence, which suggests the extent of interinsular exchanges of that time.[3]

Historic context

Prior to the European colonialism, South East Asia including Malaysia were under the influence of Indosphere of greater India, where numerous Indianized principalities and empires flourhised for several centuries in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. The influence of Indian culture into these areas was given the term indianization.[4] French archaeologist, George Coedes, defined it as the expansion of an organized culture that was framed upon Indian originations of royalty, Hinduism and Buddhism and the Sanskrit dialect.[5] This can be seen in the Indianization of Southeast Asia, spread of Hinduism and Buddhism. Indian diaspora, both ancient (PIO) and current (NRI), played an ongoing key role as professionals, traders, priests and warriors.[6][7][8][8] Indian honorifics also influenced the Malay, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian honorifics.[9] Examples of these include Raja, Rani, Maharlika, Datu, etc which were transmitted from Indian culture to Philippines via Malays and Srivijaya empire.

The pre-colonial native Filipino script called Baybayin (ᜊᜌ᜔ᜊᜌᜒᜈ᜔), known in Visayan as badlit (ᜊᜇ᜔ᜎᜒᜆ᜔), as kur-itan/kurditan in Ilocano and as kudlitan in Kapampangan, was itself derived from the Brahmic scripts of India and first recorded in the 16th century.[10]